National statistics clearly indicate a disparity in the number of underrepresented minorities obtaining higher degrees in biomedical/biobehavioral disciplines. Given that the University of California, Merced (UC Merced) is an established Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI) with the highest number of Hispanic undergraduates enrolled of any of the 10 UC campuses, UC Merced is ideally situated to realize the greatest benefit from a MARC U*STAR training grant. Data from our campus indicate a justified need to enhance and enrich the quantitative skills of our pre- MARC students via constant supplemental instruction in primarily math and chemistry courses. The establishment of various training programs such as UCLEADS, CAMP and McNair at UC Merced indicates a strong foundation from which to establish a MARC U*STAR program at UC Merced. An advisory board that is constituted by current or previous MARC directors from other UC campuses will greatly facilitate and enhance the establishment of MARC at UC Merced. Furthermore, the current proposal was developed and submitted by a previous NIH trainee, providing a clear indication of the success of NIH training programs. The objectives of our proposal are to: 1) enhance and enrich the scholars'quantitative skills, especially in chemistry and math, through supplemental, peer-tutoring during the pre-MARC developmental phase 2) enhance the scholars'academic capabilities by developing their ability to read and critically analyze the scientific literature, especially peer-reviewed papers, 3) develop the scholars'appreciation for and understanding of the scientific method including developing their ability to apply the scientific method by demonstrating the ability to propose hypothesis-driven, experimental protocols with appropriate controls that solve problems in a logical, stepwise fashion, 4) refine their professional skills set by involving the scholars in multiple opportunities to practice their oral and written skills and to network with other peers, 5) develop the scholars'understanding of and appreciation for their responsible conduct in research through a supplemental RCR training course, and 6) enhance and improve the mentorship, pedagogical and grantsmanship skills of the faculty mentors with the intent that these refinements will result in direct benefits in the advancement of the scholars. Addressing our objectives will allow us to achieve our short- and long-range goals, which are: 1) (short) to ensure that 90% of the MARC scholars and non-scholarship students participating in the program activities submit a graduate school application, with approximately 80% of these students to be accepted into graduate PhD/MD programs in biomedical sciences in the first 5 years of the grant, and 2) (long) over the next 10 years we expect that 90% of our MARC scholars and non-scholarship associates to complete a PhD or joint PhD/MD and pursue a career in biomedical research. Given the low number of students currently pursuing PhDs in biomedical sciences despite the fact that a majority of undergraduates at UC Merced are in biology majors allows us to make a profound impact on our current numbers in a short period. In summary, UC Merced's HSI status, demographics and demonstrated need for enhanced training of its undergraduates makes it an ideal training institution to establish a MARC U*STAR program.
President Barack Obama has called for the United States to reclaim its position as the nation with the highest concentration of adults with postsecondary degrees in the world, but given the changing demographics of the US, this target cannot be achieved without increasing the rate at which Hispanic students obtain a college degree. Currently, nearly 3 million students in California are from historically underrepresented minority (URM) groups, most notably Hispanic, which is the fasting growing minority group in the US. Thus, concentrated efforts to enhance the academic advancement of these students, especially in to higher degrees are critical. The University of California system provides the ideal training grounds for URM students as UC has historically graduated a higher percentage of PhDs to Hispanics vs the national average (8.4% vs 6.2% in 2005). Therefore, the establishment of a MARC U*STAR program at UC Merced, only 1 of 2 Hispanic Serving Institutes among the 10 UC campuses, has the potential to provide a great benefit to its students and address President Obama's call to increase the number of adults with postsecondary degrees.